American Eagle attendant Jose Serrano
“I’ve been in five tours in Iraq and Afghanistan,” said 47-year-old Army veteran Scott Custer. “I’ve been in combat and I’ve never felt anxiety like I did sitting on that plane.”
The plane pandemonium on Monday — which comes on the heels of several high-profile air-rage incidents — was set in motion when passengers on a scheduled 1:25 p.m. flight to Raleigh-Durham Airport in North Carolina were prevented from boarding until nearly 4 p.m. because of rain.
Then, as flight 4607 headed toward takeoff, the aircraft got stuck behind 20 other planes lined up on the runway.
After 40 minutes, the pilot turned the plane around to refuel — igniting the ire of passengers, who were forced to get off at the gate.
It was nearly 6 p.m. by the time the plan was fueled up and passengers were allowed to re-board.
But still, the flight wouldn’t leave.
“People were getting really amped up at this point,” said passenger Jon Wurster, drummer at the indie rock band Superchunk.
“It took forever to get back on the plane. The fuses were getting pretty low.”
That’s when the flight attendant Serrano began confronting grumbling passengers, making them anxious, according to witnesses. Several of them told The Post they had smelled booze on his breath.
Then Serrano exploded, shouting over the intercom: “If anyone has the balls to want to get off, I’ll let you get off! Get off!” according to witnesses.
“I don’t care anymore. This is probably my last flight,” Serrano sputtered, according to several passengers.
Wurster, the drummer, said, “I think other people might have taken that to mean, ‘Who knows what he’s going to do when we get in the air.’ ”
David Abels, 52, who was flying with his 9-year-old daughter, Hannah, said Serrano was “rude to everybody.”
“He’s being abusive verbally, my daughter was crying,” Abels said.
Several passengers refused to take off with Serrano on board — and at least three families left the plane with their kids, sources said.
Port Authority cops were called to investigate and questioned several witnesses, including Serrano.
Federal Aviation Administration officials also were notified and started investigating the incident yesterday, a source said.
No arrests were made.
The flight finally was canceled after 8 p.m.
A law-enforcement source told The Post that the flight was canceled because the plane did not have the required number of flight attendants, after Serrano was removed for questioning.
But American Eagle claimed the cancellation was due to strong rain.
The airline, as a matter of policy, refuses to reimburse passengers for hotel expenses if their flight is rescheduled or canceled due to weather.
4:40 p.m. — Pilot turns plane around to refuel. All passengers leave the aircraft.